Causes of Depression

Depression is linked to certain chemical imbalances in the brain, but the exact causes of depression are still unclear. Some factors seem to increase a person's risk of developing it, such as a history of substance abuse, a family history of depression, and stress. While MRI scans show differences in the brains of people who have depression versus those who do not, these images do not yet reveal a possible depression cause.

Causes of Depression: An Overview

Despite intensive research, depression research scientists still do not know the cause or causes of depression. They do believe that that the onset of the illness is frequently caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. In other words, there is no one cause of depression.
Research scientists also know that imbalances in brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, seem to be linked to depression. These chemicals include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. What is not known is whether these chemical imbalances are a result or a cause of depression.

Are Risk Factors the Same as Depression Causes?

While scientists are still searching for depression causes, they do know that a number of factors can increase a person's chances of developing it. These are known as depression risk factors. Risk factors are not the same as causes of depression. While they do increase the chances of developing the illness, they do not guarantee that a person will develop it.
Some risk factors for depression include:
  • A family history of depression
  • Certain medications
  • A history of substance abuse
  • Certain medical illnesses
  • Hormonal factors
  • Stress.
(Click Risk Factors for Depression to learn more.)
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